Monthly Letter
August 2004
Padre Pio Prayer Groups
Office of the National Director

St. Francis Renewal Center
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809

Dear Spiritual Children and Friends of Padre Pio,

The Lord give you His peace!

We enter the heart of summer in the month of August. Spiritually, we are reminded of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother, body and soul, into heaven - a celebration we Catholics solemnize by participating in the Eucharist. Socially, this is a month when many cram in the last few available weeks or days of summer vacation before getting back to the humdrum of daily life after Labor Day. Isnít it interesting how we regulate our anticipation and joy by the calculation of days and weeks during the summer vacation period? This is a time when many forget that the whole person in the body and the soul - created by our Heavenly Father, redeemed by the Incarnate Son, sanctified by the Holy Spirit - is called to share one day in the fullness of redemption, just as our Heavenly Mother shared in it ahead of time in view of Her Divine Maternity and Co-redeeming presence at the foot of the Saviorís Cross.

The body has become for so many solely an object of pleasure. Not just during the summer months, but all year round, we see on TV or at the Cinemas, we hear on the Radio, we have at our availability material - DVD, CD, periodicals Ė an immense amount of material presented to us that degrades the human body rendering it an object of hedonistic pleasure rather than offering it the respect it deserves as the Temple of Godís Presence, the physical means for the Creator to become intimately one with His creature. We lose sight of the fact that the body and soul can not be separated in this life without destroying the personís ability to continue on lifeís journey with all the spiritual and material help that God affords us.

Aware of this and with the help of many friends, Padre Pio fulfilled a dream he had always held in his heart. He called his dream the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza - House for the Relief of Suffering. He wanted the Casa to be founded on love lived by all who were part of its life, residents as well as staff. On the first anniversary of the Casa, in May of 1957, Padre Pio delineated its character by saying: This work, if it were only to relieve physical suffering, would only be a model clinic, realized through the extraordinary and generous means of your charity. But it is to be an effective reminder of Godís love through the charity of others...and a place where those who suffer live in the love of God through a wise acceptance of their suffering and a serene meditation on their destiny in Him.

This dream was also an awareness that went beyond human physical pain, which he personally understood so well. He realized that when the soul is ill, the body suffers as well, and often, because of the spiritual infirmity, the body cannot heal. A faithful son of our Seraphic Father, Padre Pio most assuredly had before his eyes the example of Saint Francis of Assisi who saw bodily infirmities as gifts that God offers for the health of the soul. Chapter 25 of the Little Flowers of St. Francis relates how souls would return to God when the loving care of St. Francis would cleanse the sores of the lepers; their innermost being Ė the souls - of the lepers were touched, their bodies were healed, they sought forgiveness for any wrongdoing because of the kindness and selflessness they had received, and so not only their bodies but their souls as well were healed completely. Our modern world has ďrediscovered the wheelĒ in the holistic medicine it has been proposing these past several decades. Godís Word spoke about healing the whole person Ė body and soul - 2000 years ago, and we are still fumbling around trying to achieve that God-given gift of spiritual and physical wholeness.

Pope Pius XII, in a telegram celebrating its inauguration, said that the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza took into consideration the whole human person, body and soul, because bodily pain pervades the entire person, and reaches the remotest areas of the personís moral being. The Holy Father invited the health care givers to be, as Padre Pio envisioned, Godís auxiliaries, concerned in preparing a way for the intervention of grace in the life of the sick and infirm.

In a telegram sent to the Minister General of the Capuchin Order in the 1950's, professor Paul White wrote these words regarding Padre Pio and the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza: This clinic, more than all the others in the world, seems most indicated for the study of the relationship there is between the spirit and sickness; here, more than any other place, the study of mind over matter can make great progress.

Padre Pio had a practical approach to a real problem for San Giovanni Rotondo at the time; it was a remote town, with little and poor health care facilities. He realized that faith without works is just nice talk but with no substance. When we speak about ďsalvationĒ, we must remember that the whole person must be saved. Each one of us is entirely Godís creation, not just a part of us.

Although this letter seems to center on the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, I believe that we can bring the example it offers through Padre Pioís words to any facet of our life. The spiritual realm we like to be absorbed in through our Mass, Rosary and pious discussions are not the end of the journey but the beginning of a road that indicates the direction we should follow. Prayer allows us to enter into an awareness of Godís presence so that we can see more clearly where God is directing us in our life. Godís Spirit directs us towards those areas of family life, religious life, professional life, manual labor, intellectual endeavors, relaxation, recreation, and so on. We are called to see the body as the soulís intimate companion that offers us opportunities to tangibly experience God in thought, word and deed. When we treat our bodies with respect and love, we begin to notice how things change within us and we begin to see the people, places and things around us in a totally renewed and positive way.

As our Padre Pio Prayer Groups and all Catholics in this month of August honor Mary in her Assumption, we praise and thank God for raising Mary to share beforehand in the gifts of the Resurrection of her Son. Her Assumption is a reminder of the promise God made to all His children in Jesus through the Spirit. As members of the Prayer Groups, we are called to hear that Spirit and live in the Word that challenges us to grow.

Some thoughts to consider might be the following: Do we care properly both physically and spiritually for our bodies as the Temples they are of the Holy Spirit? Do we have a healthy respect for ourselves and who we are and what we are about? Do we respectfully treat one another as members of the one family of Godís children, who gather to honor the example and spirit of Padre Pio? Do we regulate our time in such a way that our pious practices do not take us from our God-given family, social, religious, etc. responsibilities? Do we realize that everything has its place in Godís plan? Do we see the world as the theater of salvation? Do we realize that the world, as bad as things can seem, is not evil in itself, because it was created by God, but that the evil we see is the effect of how human beings misuse and abuse the wonderful gift of free will? I have posed these questions because I have noticed that often spiritual zeal can condition people to act in ways that are not in keeping with sound judgment.

Until I have the opportunity to write you again, I desire every best wish for you for the remainder of the summer, and I ask a remembrance in your prayers that I may fulfill my ministry among you as God wills. May God bless you, Our Lady protect you, and Padre Pio watch over all of you, his Spiritual Children with loving care.

Peace and Blessings,

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
National Director